Sweet and Lowdown is an odd Woody Allen movie. On the '90s, my favorite from Allen is Shadows and Fog (1991), that I love (that scene around the table is amazing), Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), that is also great, and, of course, Mighty Aphrodite (1995). From there, the next high was Vicky Christina Barcelona, Whatever Works (2009) and, of course again, Midnight in Paris (2011). Between those favorites, there are some good films too, as Match Point (2005). And there's others that I've never heard before, as Sweet and Lowdown.
Sean Penn's character is insufferable. He is a genius musician, but a lousy human being. From the first scene, I remembered something that Neil Gaiman wrote at the time of Lou Reed's death: "I'd been around long enough to know that the person isn't the art". It is sad but extremely true. One that doubly applies here - at the time I've read this, there was a big polemic statement by Mia Farrow about Allen.
It is agonising seeing how a talent musician, as Penn's Emmet Ray can be such a terrible person. His good and sweet counterpart is the girl he loves, but rejects with full force, played by the great Samantha Morton (she always presents strong performances).
The (fake) documentary narrative is the most interesting aspect in this movie, though. it highlights how the usual testimonials can be a moot point. There's a formula that insists to prevail on documentary production, and Allen talks about that here. He also discussed the fictional aspects of documentary features with the brilliant Zelig (1983). In today's movie, the debate was a bit subdued for some reason that I can point clearly. It was a bit disappointing, actually, even if I've learned not to raise my expectation with Allen's movies - they can be brilliant,, very good or something in the order of "I don't know" - Sweet and Lowdown is the last choice for sure.
|Sweet and Lowdown. Directed and written by Woody Allen. With: Sean Penn,|
Samantha Morton, Woody Allen. USA, 1999, 95 min., Dolby Digital, Color (Cable).
PS: There's one part on Neil Gaiman's piece about Lou Reed that I specially love:
I named my daughter Holly after Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn, who I'd discovered in Walk on the Wild Side. When Holly was 19, I made her a playlist of more songs she had loved as a small girl, the ones she'd remembered and the ones she'd forgotten, which led to our having the Conversation.. I dragged songs from her childhood over to the playlist (...) and then came Walk on the Wild Side. "You named me from this song, didn't you?" daid Holly as the first bass notes sang. "Yup," I said. Reed started singing.
Holly listened to the first verse, and for the first time, actually, heard the words "Shaved her legs and then he was a she...? He?"
"That's right," I said, aand bit the bullet. We were having the Conversation. "You were named after a drag queen in a Lour Reed song."
She grinned like a light going on, "Oh, Dad. I do love you". She said. Then she wrote what I'd said down on the back of an envelope, in case she forgot it. I'm not sure that I'd ever expected the Conversation to go like that.
Isn't that great? <3 For my part, I've hear Walk on the Wild Side for the first time in a movie, of course (The Ages of Lulu, 1990). Impossible to forget.